Modern (Ericksonian) Hypnosis Historical Overview

Historical Overview

Hypnosis has been around for centuries. The origins of hypnosis are closely linked to all ancient cultures and religions: Temple Sleep in ancient Egypt, Ecstatic or Meditative Sleep in India, African Voodoo, calling upon the mysterious force of ancestral spirit to heal and strengthen the body, and the western practice of laying of hands or divine touch and later passing of magnets over the body of the sick.

In all these cultures the practice of ‘hypnosis’ was linked to healing process, and often practiced by ‘physicians’.

1770: Franz Mesmer, a physician and magnetic healer from Austria, began investigating what he called Animal Magnetism; an invisible natural force possessed by all. Instead of magnet he used a stick.

In 1820 Etienne de Cuvillers coined the word hypnosis, which in Greek language means sleep.

John Elliotson (1791-1868): Prof. of medicine at the University College in London had to resign because of his belief in mesmerism or animal magnetism and its use in medical profession.

James Braid (1795-1860): A Scottish Physician used hypnotic suggestion for nervous disorders. He also draws parallel between his hypnotic practices and yoga meditation. Both Elliotson and Braid together popularized Hypnosis in England.

In 1813 Abbe Faria, an Indo-Portuguese priest conducted research on hypnosis in India and returned to Paris to study further on hypnosis. He proposed that it was not the magnetism or the power of the hypnotist that was responsible for trance or healing, but a power generated within the mind of the subject.

Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-1893), neurologist endorsed hypnosis for treating hysteria. He admits the possibility of powerful mental processes, which remains hidden from the consciousness of man.

Ambrose-August Liébeault (1864-1904) emphasised the need for co-operation and rapport between the hypnotist and the client.

Hyppolyte Bernheim (1840-1990) emphasised the importance of suggestibility.

In 1880 the medical faculty in the west took up hypnosis as a new field of medicine.

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), an Austrian neurologist, studied hypnosis under Charcot in Paris. Later he founded psychoanalysis through which he treated mental disorders through dialogue with the patient.

International Endorsement of Hypnosis

In Western Countries

First International Hypnosis Congress took place in Paris from 8th to 12th August 1889. Attendees included Jean-martin Charcot, Hyppolyte Bernheim, Sigmund Freud among others

British Medical Association approved hypnosis in 1955.

American Medical Association approved medical use of hypnosis in 1958.

The World Health Organisation recognised hypnosis as one of the therapy forms in 1983.

In Modern India

The practise of hypnosis is still restricted mainly due to the false claims of the therapists and the fear these claims generate in the public. The main false claims of traditional hypnosis in India is that the hypnotherapist can control the subconscious mind of his clients and that unless the therapist releases the client’s subconscious mind he or she will be under the therapist’s control.

However, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in its letter no.R.14015/25/96-U&H(R) (Pt.) dated 25 November 2003, has categorically stated that hypnotherapy is a recommended mode of therapy in India, to be practiced only by appropriately trained personnel.